Mental Health Care Access in the United States


Well-being encompasses physical, emotional, social, and mental health. Mental health issues affect a significant portion of the United States population, with conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to more severe disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Despite substantial government investment in addressing mental health problems, access to mental health care remains a challenge. This paper delves into the barriers hindering access to proper mental health care, including cost, the shortage of care providers, and societal attitudes. It also explores the author's perspective on the issue and provides recommendations to improve access to mental health care.

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Furthermore, it examines how the nurse code of ethics and legal standards apply to the provision of mental health care.


Health, in its entirety, encompasses physical, emotional, social, and mental well-being. Mental health issues, ranging from anxiety and depression to more severe conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, affect a substantial portion of the United States population. Shockingly, only a small percentage of these individuals have access to proper mental health care. This paper aims to shed light on the state of mental health care in the United States, discussing the barriers that hinder access to these crucial services.


The United States government has made significant investments in addressing mental health problems, allocating substantial funds for pharmacological treatments and therapies. Despite these efforts, access to mental health services remains considerably lower compared to other forms of healthcare. A key barrier to access is the cost associated with mental health care. Many individuals with mental health issues cite affordability as the primary obstacle preventing them from receiving the treatment they need (Acharya et al.

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, 2017).

It is crucial to recognize that mental health issues not only affect individuals' well-being but also have far-reaching consequences, including premature death. Conditions like bipolar disorder can lead to early mortality if not adequately managed (Bitsko, 2016). Tragically, many individuals in the United States suffer due to a lack of consistent mental health care.

One of the glaring issues contributing to limited access to mental health care is the shortage of healthcare providers specializing in mental health. Studies reveal that some regions have alarmingly low numbers of mental health care providers, leading to an unfavorable ratio of six patients to one nurse (Roehrig, 2016). This scarcity of professionals exacerbates the challenges faced by those seeking mental health support.

Access to mental health services in the United States is often contingent on an individual's ability to pay. While insurance companies do provide coverage for mental health services, certain patients, despite government initiatives, still cannot access these services. The mental health care delivery system is further hampered by delays in accessing treatment, primarily due to the shortage of care providers. Additionally, societal stigmatization of individuals with mental health issues deters some from seeking help, particularly among marginalized groups (Visser et al., 2014). There exists a misguided association between mental illness and violence within communities.

Student Perspective on the Issue

As a student, I share the perspective that mental health problems have a profound impact not only on the individuals directly affected but also on their families and communities at large. It is my firm belief that measures must be taken to enhance access to mental health services for all individuals in the United States.

I strongly recommend early investments in safeguarding the well-being of children and their families. Abandoned or abused children are at higher risk of developing mental health problems, making it imperative to create supportive environments for their growth (Bitsko, 2016). Providing financial and material support to parents can significantly contribute to ensuring a conducive atmosphere for children's development, ultimately preventing future mental health issues.

Furthermore, the punitive approach in dealing with offenders has been linked to a higher likelihood of mental health problems among the incarcerated population (Olfson, Blanco & Marcus, 2016). Prisons in the United States are often ill-equipped to provide adequate mental health care, leading to worsened symptoms due to a lack of timely interventions. I recommend shifting the focus from punishment to treatment, with a special emphasis on delivering mental health services to disadvantaged populations like prisoners.

Cost remains a major hurdle preventing individuals from accessing mental health care. To address this issue, healthcare facilities and the government should work towards reducing the financial burden associated with mental health treatment. Additionally, affordable insurance options need to be made available to ensure that those in need can access these vital services (Bitsko, 2016). Eliminating barriers such as language and transportation can further enhance access to mental health care. Moreover, increased funding for future research in mental health is essential, driving innovation and improving the quality of care provided to patients.

Legal Standards and Nurse Code of Ethics in Mental Healthcare

Several legal measures in the United States aim to improve mental health care. Mental parity laws, for example, mandate insurance companies to cover mental health issues just as they would any other health conditions. The introduction of the Affordable Care Act has also been a significant step towards enhancing access to mental health care. This legislation ensures that preventive services, such as screenings for disorders like autism and depression, are provided at no cost to individuals (Visser et al., 2014). Moreover, it has expanded insurance coverage for mental health services, benefiting a larger portion of the population.

Nurses and other healthcare providers involved in the care of mentally ill patients are bound by ethical principles and legal standards. These principles require respect for the human rights of patients, including obtaining informed consent for interventions. Privacy and confidentiality of patient data are paramount, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected. Nurses are discouraged from using restrictive measures like seclusion, and justice must prevail in the care provided to mentally ill patients (Olfson, Blanco & Marcus, 2016). Additionally, healthcare providers are obligated to prioritize the well-being of patients, ensuring that their care is beneficial and devoid of harm.


Mental health is an integral component of overall well-being. The United States government has allocated significant resources to address mental health problems, but access to care remains limited. Barriers such as cost, a shortage of care providers, and societal stigmatization continue to hinder individuals from accessing the mental health services they require. As a student, I firmly believe that early investments in child protection, a shift from punitive measures to treatment, and increased affordability and accessibility of mental health care are essential steps to improve access to these critical services. Legal standards and the nurse code of ethics further support the provision of ethical and high-quality mental health care in the United States.

Updated: Nov 08, 2023
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Mental Health Care Access in the United States. (2021, Mar 09). Retrieved from

Mental Health Care Access in the United States essay
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